Blog post from Sam van Schaik:
Working with the earliest surviving Tibetan documents, it’s impossible not to be aware of differences between the way things are presented in traditional Buddhist histories and what we see in the manuscripts. Having done my doctoral research on Dzogchen, I’ve always been interested in the divergence between the traditional image of early Dzogchen and the picture that emerges from the manuscript sources.
My first attempt to deal with this divergence was an article called “The Early Days of the Great Perfection” back in 2004 (which you can download here). In the first half of that article I tried to follow the way the contexts and usage of the word Dzogchen itself developed over time. This approach showed Dzogchen first appearing as the culmination of the meditative practice of deity yoga (the visualization of a deity and recitation of his or her mantra) around the 8th century. And then in the 9th and 10th centuries, Dzogchen became a way of contextualizing deity yoga in terms of nonconceptuality, nonduality and the spontaneous presence of the enlightened state.
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